Bringing you the issues since 1986

View Online Print Edition


The hills are alive with the sound of Mozart

September, 2010

click here to view a slideshow of images from Salzburg

It was hot. It felt like the hottest and most humid summer days in Montreal. But this was Austria. Thanks to the humidity, my naturally curly hair was starting to do the Diana Ross thing. So there I was with hat, sunglasses and SPF 85 in hand wandering the car-less streets of the Altstadt, the Old City of Salzburg.

Salzburg is located at the northern boundary of the Alps and rests at both sides of the Salzach River. With a population of 150,000, it is one of Europe’s most picturesque Baroque-style cities and best known as the birthplace of one of the world’s most beloved composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Many recognize it as the setting for one of the most popular musicals of all time, The Sound of Music.

Salzburg is rich in history and culture. I woke up at 8am and bought a Salzburg card for 25 Euros, which granted me free access for one day to many museums in the city. Despite the heat, I, expert traveler extraordinaire, was ready to explore as many museums as I could.

Many of the sights are located in the Altstadt and are easily accessible by foot. The Alstadt is filled with tourists wandering through the shops and museums. Salzburg may as well be called Mozartville with its endless amount of Mozart paraphernalia – chocolates, hats, statuettes, etc.

I first came across a house with many tourists outside taking pictures. It was Mozart’s Geburtshaus (Mozart’s birthplace). It has been transformed into a small museum with relics from his life including his first tiny violin, the wallet he carried around until he died, and a piece of his hair, which I found somewhat eerie.

My next stop was high on my list: the Spielzeugmuseum — The Toy museum! I marveled through the three-story building filled with teddy bears, dolls, doll-houses and model trains. I imagined whom these toys belonged to decades ago, and wondered whether they were still alive today.

It was noon, and I was already getting tired. I went to the Museum of Modern Art, not for the art (though I hear it is quite good) but for the Monchsberg Elevator. It goes up through solid rock to the museum atop with beautiful city views. I looked to the right and gazed at Salzburg’s beautiful medieval fortress. This acropolis perched high above the city is Salzburg’s most identifiable image.

I then found the Residenz, built in the 1600’s as the home to Wolf-Dietrich the prince archbishop. I imagined young Mozart giving his first few concerts in the great halls as I tootled through. It is now used for official functions, concerts and banquets.

The sun was pounding, but it did not stop me from climbing up to the fortress (actually I took the tram up). The 11th century Fortress Hohensalzburg is one of the largest preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. It’s like a little city up there with restaurants, little shops and museums. I sadly had to skip over the marionette museum as my time was running short. I headed straight for the lavish staterooms, which had stunning panoramic city views. Some of the interesting highlights on my way down were the 17th century kitchen and the room with torture masks – disturbing, but interesting.

I made it to Mozart’s residence 30 minutes before closing. He moved there in 1733. Since this was my last museum of the day I took my time and sat next to a fan in the large hall where his instruments were displayed. I overexerted myself because even though I am a huge fan of Mozart, by that time I was more interested in the fan in the corner.

Across from Mozart’s residence is the Mirabell Gardens. I sat on a bench under a tree and watched couples walk hand in hand through the romantic Baroque city garden.

I was absolutely exhausted by 5pm, the weather was now making my hair do the rat’s nest thing and I was completely out of shampoo and conditioner. It was Saturday. America has 24hr convenience stores, but most of Salzburg shuts down on Saturday night. I walked into a hotel to ask a nice man where I might find a store that was open to buy shampoo. He said that stores close early on Saturday and that I would have to wait till Monday… Monday?!?! By then my hair would be in dreadlocks. I could not let that happen. After much investigation I found the one gas station in Salzburg that was open 24hrs and bought the one cheap dust covered bottle of shampoo on the shelf. They didn’t have conditioner, to my chagrin.

The next day I went on The Sound of Music tour, which took us to many of those famous scenes. The von Trapp house used for the movie was beautiful but we were only able to see it from far away across the lake since it is now used as somewhat of a think tank for Harvard University. The infamous little gazebo (“I am 16, going on 17”) had to be moved to a nearby park because too many tourists trespassed to see it. It was eventually sealed shut after someone once tried to copy Liesl’s dance steps and managed to fall and break a hip.

The tour ended in a little town 35km east of Salzburg called Mondsee. It is a popular summer retreat destination for the locals with its peaceful lake and colorful houses. It is also known to have some of the best apple strudel around. The magnificent Basilica St. Michael’s in Mondsee was the setting for the marriage of Maria and the Captain von Trapp.

Flowerboxes are all the rage in Salzburg. As we drove back to Salzburg I couldn’t help but notice the many Swiss Chalet houses with hundreds of colorful flowers pouring out every window, each house trying to outdo the next.

Later that day I took a city bus 16km north of the city to Untersberg, a mountain in the Apls between Austria and Germany. For 20 Euros a cable car brought me up almost 2000m to the peak. I found a serene lonely bench at the peak, overlooking the Alps. I sat there and contemplated the meaning of my life while eating the apple strudel I bought in Mondsee.

I spent the next morning writing postcards in St. Sebastian’s cemetery – a peaceful oasis in the middle of the Old City. This 17th century cemetery was recreated for the escape scene in The Sound of Music and is the eternal resting place of many famous people including some of the members of the Mozart family.

Trains were leaving hourly from Salzburg to Vienna – my next stop. I was hoping I’d find conditioner there.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment